The Keynote presentations I gave my boss and both sets of our parents to introduce our plans for 2016-2017 began with these five words:
This is a big idea.
And for us, it would be tough to be any bigger. The exciting thing is that it’s no longer just a Big Idea — it’s a big “thing” or action or lifestyle change.
We put our house on the market 506 days before our son Braden starts kindergarten. Nothing against kindergarten, but we’ve decided that we’re going to try to get the very most we can out of those 506 days and for us, that means selling our house and buying an RV to drive around the country.
Living on the road has been a Big Idea of ours for years, but there are a number of factors that pushed us forward in making it happen.
For starters, Jess and I have talked about full-time RVing as a retirement goal for years. But there were a few things in 2015 that made us realize that quality of life in retirement isn’t a given. In 2015, I lost two grandparents, one to lung cancer and one to Alzheimer’s. We saw how many weeks my parents spent working with their ailing parents and we also saw how quickly disease can take someone’s health away from them forever. Additionally, in 2015 we saw my boss go through an unbelievable ordeal for a previously undiagnosed condition that quickly became life threatening. He was certainly not expecting a year of recovery in his mid-40s, and while he is building slowly back to full strength, it served as a stark reminder for Jess and I that neither of us has any idea what the future holds.
So when the idea of trying out a lifelong goal when we’re hopefully only about a third of the way through that life began to take hold, we started listing the reasons why we couldn’t do the trip. This so often seems to be the phase where Big Ideas die. But when we really started listing the reasons, we found that surprisingly few of them were obstacles to really hold us back.
On the family side of things, Jess, Braden and I are healthy, happy and like each other. Our dogs are healthy. All four parents are healthy and happy.
Financially, we’ve lived in a manner where we’re debt free aside from the mortgage and a few thousand dollars left on a car. Selling the house, our two cars and most of our stuff would give us a nice little reserve fund that will hopefully carry over to a significant downpayment on our next house when we get back.
From a career perspective, I am fortunate enough to work for boss and a company that thinks outside the box. In 2012, I was hired as my company’s first remote worker. I worked from home in Chattanooga while the rest of the company was an hour away in North Alabama. Now, the company is 80 percent remote workers. My writing, client management and other work can be done from home or a park or practically anywhere with an Internet and telephone connection. That became increasingly more apparent in 2015, when I spent 60 nights away from home on client visits or conferences for work. The route for our trip will coincide with work-related conferences and client visits all over the Eastern US.
We’re also fortunate that Jess’s career as a social worker is one with lots of turn over and constant demand so that she believes she will not have a problem getting rehired when we come back to Chattanooga in August of 2017.
We’re also very fortunate that Jess’s parents had purchased a home here in Chattanooga. This gives us a backup so that we can avoid being homeless if something happens with the RV.
The biggest “Aha moment” for us came when we added up our nights away from home. We’d spent about 30 days away from home on weekend trips and short vacations. I had spent 60 nights away and another 15 or so nights where I got in late enough where everyone was asleep already. That’s more than a quarter of the year, we weren’t even here. We started to wonder, what if for a year and a half, we spent all of our nights at home, because home was going with us?
In late summer and fall 2015, we started planning the trip and scaling down with a yard sale. I pitched the idea to my boss right after Thanksgiving and miraculously, he didn’t laugh me out of his office. We worked on a plan to visit clients and potential clients as well as speaking engagements at conferences around the Eastern U.S. We told our parents right around New Years and began preparing the house for sale. We listed the house on the Thursday before Easter (506 days before Braden’s first day at kindergarten) and had eight offers in three days, some for well over asking price. On April 7, Jess turned in her notice at work and on April 8, my dad and I flew to Dayton, Ohio to purchase the RV and drive it home. (More on the RV later).
As things stand now, we will close on the house April 28, and stay at Jess’s parents Chattanooga house until Jess’s last day at work on May 20. We’re booked to stay at Cumberland Falls State Park May 21 for a few days to see the famous “Moonbow” and then headed for Lexington to stay at the Kentucky Horse Park. We’ve got some pretty good ideas for where the trip will go from there (most frequently in Virginia, the Carolinas and Texas, but hopefully with trips to the Great Lakes, Great Plains and Southwest), but we’re going to try not to get too far ahead of ourselves. After all, the Big Idea was to make the most out of each of these 506 days.